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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

another response to israel

Another person I know who makes Jerusalem their home has responded to the Newsweek article just below. This also is worth reading.

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Hey Murray,

Thanks for the article and my comments shall proceed.

Regarding the Issue of poverty, housing, etc. Yes, it is a problem, but simply, I would disagree with some of his "large assumptions" that make it sound like all of Israel is breaking down and "everyone" is unhappy. Sure, people are feeling pressure, a lot of pressure, and some more then others. But there is still a majority that believe defense and security to hold back the hateful tide at its borders to preserve their very lives is better then having cheaper housing, and cheaper food. The situation isn't completely unbearable, people do struggle, but Israel is stretched thin, budget wise, because of all the problems surrounding its borders. That is my general feeling of the whole situation, seeing the protests, reading articles, and researching surveys.
My second thing are all his comments on the whole "occupied land of West Bank and Gaza" which is a crock because once again the whole story is not told and "word usage" is twisted giving into the same lie and trap people everywhere fall into when dealing with this area. So, a few of my points are, after 1948 war, Gaza was occupied by Egypt and Jordan captured the west side of the Jordan, and most of Jerusalem. Jordan then expelled Jews and oppressed them as well as Egypt. Then, in a defensive war in which these Arab countries sought to annihilate Israel, Israel conquered this territory as well as the Golan Heights. Now to be factual, while Gaza, Westbank and Golan Heights were occupied by Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, these lands were never recognized in the 19 years of occupation by the UN to be part of these countries. Plus, these lands were in the original plan by the UN and Pan Salma to be a part of the Jewish Homeland!!!! So, by every right, Israel is the legitimate holder of these lands, not an "occupier". This term was coined because of two things, Israel chose not to fully annex these lands because of defensive reasons, and the whole Palestinian plight which is mumbo jumbo because during the British Mandate, TransJordan or modern day Jordan was created for the Palestinians as a homeland. Plus, Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005 and so there already is a Palestinian State and it is besieged not by Israel, but by Hamas, who is the real enemy. Israel just secures it because of the lawlessness, weapons smuggling, and terror threat. So, I really did not care for Morris' bad generalizations, skewed comments, etc. It also goes to show you even if someone lives in Israel and calls themselves a historian they can skew the facts. I know many professors, Members of Knesset, rabbis, journalists, and other people who would firmly disagree with Morris' statements.
Having said this he does paint a good picture of some of the struggles in Israel, the threat and complication of the surrounding nations, and Islams threat in countries like Egypt that really were never "liberated" through these riots (which mainly are staged and paid for by rich Arabs....last riot at Israeli Embassy in Cairo was set up by an Arab multimillionaire who paid people to riot. Plus, if you look carefully there really isn't any women or children at these riots and the soldiers are in control. Strange?) Anyway, those are a number of my thoughts, Murray, maybe very opinionated but gathered through years of study.

Anyway, thank you once again for sending the article. I trust you and Linda are doing fine and blessings.

Peter

Monday, September 19, 2011

is israel over?

A Newsweek article asking if Israel was finished as a nation was published recently. I decided to ask a friend who has lived in Jerusalem for many years to comment on the piece. You will find his thoughts interjected at the appropriate points in the article below. An important and provocative read! (the comments are highlighted by asterisks)

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Hey – Moshe!!

A few comments interspersed in the article. Not much to say; the problems are huge, but I’ve little doubt that there’s progress here in the face of virtually
incomprehensible hostility and isolation – not all of Israel’s making as suggested by the tone of the articles.

Also, I’m a little perturbed by the generalizations throughout both articles.

Anyway, this is from my for-what-it’s worth mind-evolving understanding of this incredibly perplexing place.!

I’ll be paying a little bit more attention to some of these issues and see whether I can become a little more decisive, specific – whatever.

Toda Raba,
Laila Tov – it’s way past bed-time.
P
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In Newsweek Magazine

Is Israel Over?

*It’s a question doing the rounds here as well. Question: is what sense over?
Over the barrel?! The Zionist dream of an independent state where Jews can be free of anti-semitism? Or the idealism of Kibbutz socialism? Or does this question reflect a pessimism that once again the Jews will be dispersed as has happened many times in their 3000+ years of existence, and the land destroyed?*


No longer the liberal, democratic, egalitarian society it once was, Israel is fighting the Arabs—and itself.

*POINT is: Israel is fighting more than the Arabs! They’re fighting the lies about their legitimacy, their aspirations, to say nothing about the antisemitism/antiZionism in the West. Fighting the Arabs? Of course. Not to do so, in a sense, is to be annihilated.*

*What’s to be said about Israel fighting itself? It has certainly been it’s own worst enemy down through the ages – and there’s no let up! The in-fighting is incomprehensible to me. Here they are badgered on every side, almost Universally, and yet they can’t agree on anything. It’s the old notion of two Jews, three or more opinions, or synagogues.*

Israel is under assault. On Sept. 20 the Palestinian Authority plans to unilaterally declare statehood and go to the United Nations for recognition. This is a rejection of all efforts for a peaceful compromise. In its wake will come waves of Palestinian violence. And yet this is just the latest manifestation of an embattled Israel that is being threatened from the outside—by Muslim Arab states and societies, Egyptians storming the Israeli Embassy, a nuclear-arming Iran (with its local sidekicks, Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Hizbullah in Lebanon), and a besieged President Bashar al-Assad in Syria—and from the inside by domestic upheaval that led to the largest mass protests in the country’s history.

*QUESTION: how seriously is this assault been taken by the West? Where is the legal and historical perspective on both the people and the land? Where are the security-related concerns? Why the blind political correctness? Arafat’s plan of taking over the entire area piece by piece is what it’s all about. As long as there’s no Arab guarantee of an Israeli State, there can be no peace. Thing is, we all know that the ultimate issue is not land; it’s religious colonialism tied to the Islamist belief that they are to dominate the world. Anyone not of Islam is an infidel and must either convert or be executed. (Of course even the Christians pursued such policies in the Middle Ages.)*


More than 50 years ago, Israel’s leaders, headed by David Ben-Gurion, believed and hoped that they were creating a social democracy, with all the requisite egalitarian accoutrements (socialized national health care, progressive income tax, child benefits, subsidized cheap housing). Ben-Gurion, who owned almost nothing and retired to a primitive hut in the Negev Desert, typified the austere lifestyle, and greatness, of the state’s founders.

*No doubt much of the original vision is blurred by rampant materialism and high-tech wealth in the land which Ben-Gurion, of course, knew nothing about. As is so often the case with capitalist freedom, a few hold the reigns of power and wealth – and exercise great control. Nevertheless, the original goal of providing an equality of service to all citizens – remains, as far as I can tell. Also, many surveys have confirmed that the Arabs in Israel are far better off economically than their cousins in the disputed territories – under the PLO – to say nothing of Gaza – even although apparently there are many improvements in those areas. An interesting poll among the Arabs in Judea and Samaria showed that while many support the PA statehood bid, far less of them wanted to live in such a state!*

This is no longer Israel. A profound, internal, existential crisis has arrived. It stems in part from the changing nature of the country, more right wing, more restrictive, far less liberal, and far less egalitarian. Many moderate Israelis fear the country is heading for ruin. Indeed, the country’s ruling class, including Benjamin Netanyahu and his predecessors Ehud Olmert (now on trial for corruption) and Ehud Barak (a former head of the Labor Party and current defense minister), live in opulence, and the feeling is that they are out of touch with reality. In Tel Aviv, where some 350,000 gathered in protest, a widespread chant, set to a popular children’s ditty, was “Bibi has three apartments, which is why we have none.”

*Define “Israel.” A homeland for the Jews; a refuge for those in the diaspora? A hope for the disenfranchised Jews in Arab states – where persecution has been and is virtually beyond the telling of it? Thousands are still streaming into the country and they are all helped financially, with housing, language studies, schooling, employment, medical services free of charge.*

*Yes – the present coalition is more right wing – especially in terms of defence and social issues....*

*Opulence of the leaders? I don’t know anything about that – and have never read such criticism in either of the English language dailies – J Post or Ha’aretz. Of course Bibi lives in the PM’s residence. Opulent? No idea, but somehow I can’t imagine that it is.*

*Egalitarian? The social services here seem exemplary in many respects. The medical services are open and free to all – Jews and Arab Israelis. Gita has often talked about the treatment of Arabs she has observed in the hospitals and has always been impressed by its quality. This goes for any from the so-called West Bank who need meds not available there. Just last week I went to an Eye Clinic in East J for a check up because it’s apparently the best one in Israel – and was attended to by an Arab opthalmologist. I don’t know whether there were any Jews there – and the place was packed – but the reception was wonderful and the treatment faultless. Gita’s dentist is Arab. All this to say that in the professions there certainly seems to be an unhesitating respect and a working together.*

*It’s generally acknowledged that Israel invests tremendously in education across the board – and has the highest per capita rate of university degrees as it does in books and academic papers published.*

Tent cities popped up as the demonstrators—20- to 45-year-olds, with a healthy contingent of older people—rallied against nonprogressive taxation, low wages, and the high cost of housing and consumer goods, which have made it nigh impossible for families to make ends meet. A full 20 percent of Israelis (and 15 percent of Israeli Jews) live under the poverty line, and the top decile of Israel’s population earns 31 percent of the country’s total net income. The lowest decile earns a mere 1.6 percent. Last year Israel was elected to membership in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a group of the world’s 32 most-developed countries. Among them, Israel ranks as one of the worst (alongside Mexico and the United States) in terms of wealth polarization.

*Again – yes, a distinct polarization in wealth. As in South Africa, there is a great deal of wealth in this little splinter of land, and it is controlled by some sort of capitalist elite. Housing costs are prohibitive in TA and Jerusalem (although cheaper here). Food stuffs are also quite expensive – although at the Shuk, one can find reasonable alternatives to the chain grocery shops.*

*However, the protests were a great example of civil liberties, the freedom of expression, assembly, dissent. You name it, Israel is a remarkably free society, a fantastically multicultural society and equality before the law. Even the so-called Palestinians are free to petition Israel’s High Courts.*

Israel suffers from a steady brain drain, with tens of thousands of university graduates and wannabe academics moving abroad for lack of adequate positions or pay. Berlin has a community of more than 10,000 young Israelis, many of them working in the arts, who found creativity in Israel impossible. In a recent interview, one film director said that in Israel her energies were spent on making commercials and fashion trivia in order to subsist; Berlin enabled her to pursue her passion. In Tel Aviv, kindergartens charge $700 to $1,000 per child per month; in Berlin, the cost is $120; a kilo of cucumbers costs $1 in Tel Aviv, half that in Berlin.

*Brain drain? Maybe – although again, I don’t see anyone crying about it in the press (as they do in South Africa). I have chatted with several academic types about a variety of concerns, but this has never come up. University research facilities seem to be top of the range – and I’ve met several Ph D students who have no intention of moving elsewhere. But specifics – stats and so on, I don’t know.*

*Again, no stats, but this place seems totally energetic in terms of the arts. Just below us in the Gehennon Valley are concerts, film festivals, art shows, book fairs, crafts fairs – and so on. Theatres and symphonies are to be enjoyed – so I don’t know where this artistic repression is.*

*I also have no data on kindergarten charges – except that there are many “private” ones which are expensive. Certainly in the Haredi areas, all such services are free. But, like everything else, if you want really good education, you have to pay for it by going private. As far as I know the public school system is pretty good and open to all residents of Israel.*


*All I’ll say here is that there is definitely a political tsunami coming. Exciting stuff!*

*Of course, I’m trying to sort it all out in terms of prophecy and so on – which is dicey at best – but interesting.*

In the 1950s, Israel was an under-developed country filled with ideologically motivated Zionists willing to sacrifice for the collective good. Today’s Israel has a burgeoning economy, driven by sophisticated and internationally competitive high-tech industries, and a population driven mainly by individuals who want the good life. They see that too much of the national pie goes both to the West Bank settlers (who tend to be religious and ultranationalist) and to the ultra-Orthodox (who contribute almost nothing to the economy and avoid mandatory military service).

Worse, this hard-core contingent is making babies at a rapid clip; they tend to have five to eight children per family, versus two to three children in secular homes. This gives them disproportionate clout in Parliament. And that translates into political power—and economic benefits. (Paradoxically, the ultra-Orthodox remain the poorest sector in Israeli Jewish society, mainly because most of them don’t work.)

The other side of the coin: Israel’s own Arab minority is emerging as a potential major problem, too. The Israeli Arab landscape is increasingly dominated by minarets and veiled women; and its leaders, identifying with their Palestinian cousins outside, vociferously call for Israel to shed its character as a “Jewish state” and give its Arab citizens collective minority rights and perhaps some form of autonomy.

Since the West Bank and Gaza were conquered in 1967, successive Israeli governments have failed to fully withdraw from them, either unilaterally or with a peace deal. The Arabs may have been largely at fault—in 2000 Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat turned down an Israeli offer to withdraw from 95 percent of the West Bank and 100 percent of the Gaza Strip—but Israel retains its stranglehold over these people and continues to expand its settlement enterprise.

Israel is a deeply troubled democracy. A democracy it still is, for its citizens—both Jewish and Arab. But Israel is no democracy when it comes to the semi-occupied 2.5 million Arabs of the West Bank and the 1.5 million semi-besieged Arabs of the Gaza Strip. And all this is now congealing

Now there looms the even greater threat of resurgent Islam, not just within Israel’s borders or the Palestinian territories, but across the region, where it is spreading like a brushfire. Many in the West have taken heart from the so-called Arab Spring, viewing the upheavals as heralds of democratic transformation. Israelis are less optimistic. The Islamist message that is coming out of Ankara, and moving to center stage in Cairo, includes a hard core of anti-Zionism usually accompanied by anti-Semitic overtones. (Egypt’s deposed president Hosni Mubarak is now denounced as a “stooge of the Zionists.” A photo of Netanyahu, dressed in an SS uniform, with a Hitler mustache, making the Nazi salute, appeared on the cover of the popular Egyptian weekly Octoberon Aug. 28. Inside, the journal carried an article called “The New Nazis”—and it isn’t even an Islamist publication.)

Netanyahu is creating a series of bureaucratic salves for the country’s economic ills. But they will be swamped, and rendered irrelevant, in the tide of Palestinian activism and anti-Zionism that will be set off by the Palestinian statehood bid. It will then trigger shock waves around the Arab and Islamic worlds. Months ago, Ehud Barak predicted that Israel will face a “political tsunami.” Here it comes.

Morris is an Israeli historian

Sunday, September 18, 2011

so why are the amish growing?

Why are the Amish Growing?

Not so many years ago I remember doing some research on the Amish and it was quite evident that a number of writers felt the Amish were on their way out due to declining numbers. Well, if it ever was the case it is not so any longer. A friend just returned from Michigan and told me there were Amish where there had never been Amish before and he had enjoyed making the acquaintance of several through his father. In Montana, not far from where I live, there are now Amish. If I did a bit of digging I wonder where else I might find they had popped up – Germany, Brazil, Ireland, France – and whether there were Amish who were of Hispanic background, or African-American, or Asian?

I’ve read that 85% of those born and raised Amish (though you’re not really Amish until you’ve taken your vows and been baptized) choose to remain Amish. Even with large families that still doesn’t account for the sudden spread of the Amish faith (which was not that strong in other generations). Clearly there is growth from converts. But what are the reasons someone would convert to the Amish faith in this day and age? As I mentioned in my last blog, I know some good reasons why I could be Amish but I also know a number of good reasons why I couldn’t. What are the reasons people might be joining the Amish faith in the 21st century, reasons that overwhelm their hesitancies and objections?

Well, the only way to really know all the reasons would be to interview the hundreds of new converts. Since I don’t have time to do that this Sunday night I thought I might speculate and that maybe you could respond and speculate with me. Then maybe another day I could find some research on the topic and find out if the actual reasons dovetailed with the ones we thought up together.

I think one reason for the growth of the Amish faith is the loss of community in the world around them. Many people no longer have strong connections with their neighbors or social groups or even their families. (Or even their churches.) Lonely and feeling increasingly cut off from meaningful relationship these people gravitate towards the close-knit Amish community.

Another reason is the fast and stressful pace of our society. People are sick of the running and having to live as if they’re machines with computer brains, sick of the financial strain, sick of fighting to make ends meet. Wouldn’t it be nice to live at a slower pace and have time to lean on a fence or a hoe handle and talk with a neighbor as if were 1875 again? Go at a horse’s pace when you travel rather than in a hurtling steel gas guzzler that fights for space with thousands of other hurtling steel gas guzzlers? Not be hassled by the need for money, money and more money?

Then there is the living out of the Christian faith. Some feel their churches are too big, too busy, too full of programs, too impersonal. They look at the Amish and find a faith in Christ where people know your name and care about your life and struggles, they value your family and children – not as numbers to fill the pews and chairs, but as members of an honest-to-goodness up-close-and-personal spiritual church that honors Jesus Christ as Redeemer and Lord.

Others agree with the pacifist stance of the Amish church, a stance they have taken for hundreds of years. In a world afflicted by a constant stream of wars, terrorist acts and violence for many – for most – it is refreshing to be among a people who eschew the way of the sword for the way of the plow. It is a community of Christian faith truly committed to peace.

As I mentioned a couple of blogs back there is the fact the Amish don’t swallow technology whole like the culture around them, they discuss and debate it. While it’s true humans seem to be a creation easily addicted to technological innovation down through the ages it’s also true there are those who question it and avoid it down through the ages. The big question for the Amish is whether a new technology enhances community or erodes it. If the latter it is not adopted. (In case you think nothing new has been added since the era of Wyatt Earp or Little House on the Prairie some Amish use cell phones at certain times and for very specific reasons.)

Then there is a reason I actually came up with after reading an Amish farmer talking about it (so it’s not a reason I thought up at all). He simply said that some people are called to be Amish, called by God, in the same way people are called to be pastors or missionaries or to join a specific church or denomination. Which makes sense to me. Some people feel they belong with the Baptists or the Methodists or the Pentecostals or Vineyard or the Greek Orthodox Church. And some feel they need to be Amish because God has put it in their heart. Warum nicht? Why not?

Or maybe you would like to live your life with God out among horses and barns and livestock and fields and wooden carts and carriages, and people with a like heart for such things, without the screech of TVs and car brakes and amplified music.

I don’t know for sure, but I wonder if some of the reasons I’ve laid out here might be the reasons some people have converted to the Amish faith and the Amish way in recent years.

What reasons do you think people have who discard suits and jeans and skirts and the driving of Camaros to dress plain and ride in one-horse buggies and grow beards or wear prayer kapps and sit down to platefuls of Shoofly pie?

What would your reasons be?

Why not leave a comment and let me know?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

could you be amish?

Could You Be Amish?

Now and then I have wondered how I would make out as an Amish convert. After all, the movement is growing and not just by means of childbirth.

While my wife loves using power tools I have a number of tools that came down to me from my father and his father. It’s amazing how these saws and drills and hammers of wood and steel have retained not only their functionality but their rugged beauty. The wood takes on that special aged hue. I love using them. So that’s one point for being comfortable with being Amish.

I like horses too and have owned and cared for quarter horses. It’s true I haven’t worked with Percherons or the other large work horses but I’d be willing to learn. Just as I’d be willing to learn how to handle a buggy properly. And pick up some of the farrier’s trade. So that’s another point.

Chopping wood? Do that already for my wood stove. Candles and oil lamps? Love ‘em. Lived up north for two years where that’s all some people had for light at night. (Electricity hadn’t reached a number of remote locations.) Quilts? Well, who doesn’t like snuggling up under a well-made quilt on a cold winter’s night?

And then I also share the Christian faith with them. And I have a smattering of German picked up from my mother’s side of the family I can start out with.

Ah, but then there are the challenges. I like photography and I like art. The Amish consider those the forbidden making of graven images. I like lively worship music but the Amish hymns are hundreds of years old and often focus on themes of suffering in Christ set to slow tunes. I don’t always want to dress plain but dressing plain is what I’d have to do. I’d rather not be a farmer 24/7 but farming is the preferred profession unless I can excel as a blacksmith, farrier or furniture maker.

But wait! Suppose I want to be a pastor. Well, that is chosen by lot and no remuneration is offered to those chosen – you still must work at something else. So can I make a living as a writer? What if I wrote adventures and romances about the Amish people? Hmmm . . .

What if I want to fly the flag? The Amish don’t do that. Suppose, in 1942, I thought it was right to resist the Nazis in Europe? No, the Amish do not enlist and they do not fight. Can I have a picnic and let off fireworks on July 4th? Nay, the Amish do not celebrate Independence Day.

So converting to the Amish Way is perhaps not so easily done even though I admire and respect the Amish culture and faith. If I was serious about it much prayer would be required on my part as well as a willingness to lay down a number of my desires and preferences.

Also, I don’t like wearing a beard. What would I do about that? And would my wife like to put on a prayer kapp and kiss a man with a beard for the rest of her life? I know she wouldn’t mind all the 19th century Little House on the Prairie ways but she’d have to give up her power tools. What about that? And probably stop being an RN.

You see, it’s not so easy for me to be Amish. How about you?

Friday, September 02, 2011

arguing in amish

At the request of one of my publishers I've been asked to blog on things Amish at AmishReader.com. If you're interested in The Amish Way you might want to Google it. Here's one of the things I have written recently to give you an idea about the site.


Arguing in Amish

One of the most fascinating things about writing Amish fiction is listening to their ongoing debate with technology. This has been going on particularly since the arrival of the telephone. You might think Alexander Graham Bell’s invention was rejected outright but no, it was actually used by the Amish for a number of years, until the Amish realized it was being used as a means for spreading gossip. Thus the problem was not that it was a new technology to be rejected out-of-hand, the problem was it could be used to destroy Christian community.

The motorcar was rejected because it adversely affected the sacred community as well – some could afford to own one, some couldn’t, it could become a source of pride and prestige and, in so doing, ruin equality among the members of the Amish church and community. You can ride in one for short distances but not drive one or own one. Not because the Amish don’t like cars – they don’t like what ownership of cars can do to their people. The same is true of airplanes. And motorboats. And a lot of other things.

The Amish are not striving to live in the 1800s although to some it looks that way. Why, some Amish communities have telephone booths that can be used in emergencies. No, the Amish are fighting to keep their communities intact despite the onslaught of technology that, in their eyes, divides communities and breaks up families and relationships. While, for the most part, the world outside their farms is eager to snap up whatever new technology floods the market, be it iphones or ipods or six foot long HD TV sets, without debating the human consequences of any of it, the Amish do debate and they debate the consequences of all of it.

What a difference it would make if society as a whole learned from the Amish that some precious things about humanity are threatened by the promiscuous use of technology and that there should be more debate going on about what technology is appropriate and what is not. A few discussions might be going on in churches and religious organizations and among other groups but not much. It seems that only the Amish are arguing and praying about this issue with any kind of seriousness and consistency. Which might be one explanation for their growth over the past decade – not only that some people are fleeing the turmoil of a fast-paced, hi tech society where there is no longer time to sit and think – but that some want to debate what technology is good for us and what isn’t. Few others are engaged in such an argument or discussion and some 21st century citizens apparently wish to be part of those who do argue, do discuss, do pose the important questions and objections. Even if it means learning to argue and debate – and listen! – in Amish.